“Bundle up, or you’ll catch a cold!”
How many times have you heard, or maybe even uttered, those words? Yet, science has repeatedly proven that there is no link between being cold and catching a cold. Colds are caused by any of more than 200 different viral strains —which is why it has so far proved impossible to find a cure for the common cold—and none of them become more potent in cold weather.
So, why do most colds occur during the fall, winter, and early spring, when the weather is colder?
Do Changing Seasons Cause Colds?
There are a number of reasons why colds, and their close sibling, the flu, are more prevalent when the weather outside is frightful. Here’s a look at just a few of the contributing factors:
- School is in session. Generally, children get sick more often than adults. The reason for this is twofold: their immune systems aren’t as strong as an adult’s, and they haven’t been exposed to as many strains of cold and flu viruses as adults have. Fall, winter, and spring just happen to be when kids are in school, swimming in a soup of their classmates’ germs.
- Coming in from the cold. Like kids, adults also spend more time indoors during the winter time, putting them in greater contact with others and increasing their chances of catching, or spreading, viruses.
- The nose knows. It’s no secret that cold weather can dry out skin. This includes the inside lining of your nose. When that lining becomes dry and irritated, it is more vulnerable to rhinoviruses, the most common cause of the common cold.
- Stress less. Both psychological and physiological stress can contribute to a weakened immune system, leading to more colds. Winter can be a very stressful time of year, between the holidays, the stress of driving in bad weather, keeping sidewalks and driveways clear of snow, furnace malfunctions, icy roofs, and getting the kids to all of those after-school functions … It’s no wonder you’re more likely to get sick!
- OK, you got us, it may be the weather. While temperature has no effect on viruses, humidity does. Most cold-causing viruses thrive in conditions of low humidity, which happens to be during the colder months of the year.
Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.